The inclusion of a Bible story for the first time in a textbook in communist China has sparked a controversy as critics called the move a violation of the law which separated education from religion.
Some “outraged” netizens criticised the book used in secondary schools in Beijing saying it spread Western values, following which its co-compiler said yesterday that the story was included to make students aware about Western myths.
“(We) added some extracts from the Bible’s Book of Genesis into the textbook to broaden students’ horizons and introduce them to Western myths,” an employee of the Beijing Academy of Educational Science (BAES), one of the textbook’s two compilers and a textbook selection consultant for capital education authorities, told the ‘Beijing Youth Daily’.
The text, which also includes several Chinese myths, was published in 2006 and is used in Chinese language classes for first-year middle school students, the Daily reported.
Wang Kai, director of the BAES textbook centre, said that the textbook has been adopted by about 40 per cent of secondary schools in Beijing.
The book triggered heated discussion online as some netizens questioned why the “Christian content appeared in a textbook in a secular country,” another official daily ‘Global Times’ reported today.
A commentary by columnist Wang Xiaoshi published on Hainan-based news site cwzg.cn said that the textbook violates China’s education law which mandates that the country adopt the principle of separation of education and religion.
The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) largely remained atheist and bars its members from practising religion.
Wang cited a comment by scholar and national political advisor He Xin that humanities textbooks are a symbol of national unity and also reflect the dignity of education.
However, professor Yao Xinyong of the Chinese Department of Jinan University told the ‘Global Times’ that neither scholars nor the public should read an ideological or political perspective into the textbook.
“The purpose of basic education is to offer systematic knowledge of human culture, both domestic and foreign,” Yao said.
China’s recent revision of its primary and secondary school Chinese language textbooks has received mixed reactions from the public and scholars.
Some have complained that the textbooks excessively praise foreigners and belittle the Chinese people, the report said.
Officials said the Chinese language textbooks have been revised on popular demand to focus more on traditional culture, which was largely destroyed during Mao-era, especially in the decade-long Cultural Revolution.